When I was 10 years old, I was sent to a new school that had previously been an all-boys school. By welcoming families with girls, this new ‘co-ed’ campus doubled their enrolments. But the curriculum remained the same as the boys’, right down to the masculine textbooks. Even back then as a young girl, it was hard to “see it and be it” when past female role models did not exist within the school, and male figureheads and their achievements dominated the school’s history and narratives. Weekly assemblies included the Headmaster’s sermons and of course the football updates. It occurred to me even as a 10-year-old, that apart from the uniform, there was not much of a ‘female lens’ there at all.
This covert and unintentional gender conditioning still continues to play out in our education system, university and the workplace. It is the culmination of centuries of history living in a patriarchal society.
If what we’re exposed to from childhood sets up the patterns for adulthood and our careers, it will take serious re-education of our ‘blind spots’ if we are to maximise the visibility of women in our society. Business that was initially built for men needs to find its female lens; that is, recognise the needs of women and the new demands set upon them by a modern world. The opportunity here is not only a moral or ethical one; it can be a bottom-line game-changer.
The following five business myths will provide you with a starter kit to address common issues that I see across many businesses, big and small.
Having a nearly all-female team does not make you an expert on engaging your female clients or customers. Women learn from the same principles of business as men. Just consider the essential management bibles: Sun Tzu, Napoleon Hill, Warren Buffet, Seth Godin, Stephen Covey – all guys. It’s all sage advice, but still all seen through the lens of male constructs. Leaders who hold onto the fact that they have a mostly-female team need to see if the math adds up. What do your sales say? Do you have a majority of available female market-share? Are you really doing a good job of engaging your female audience?
The last six decades have seen amazing progress in advancing women’s rights and bringing about social changes. Yet this has brought much confusion to the world of business. No one wants to be accused of discriminating against women or being seen as a company that is not for equal opportunity, leading many leaders to think that tasking the HR department with stamping out “Unconscious Bias” is the key solution. But this doesn’t address deeper engagement with your consumers and customers – the women who are outside of your business. Business that understands this and focuses its lens on the customer making the consumption decisions, will win their dollars.
Creating a role on the org chart with a token title is delusional. Organisations need top-down support from management, and an explicit move from within the business to create a female business culture that seeks to understand the needs of its consumers and clients. But even more than this, a cultural shift is necessary from male lens only, to a culture that allows all staff to see through both.
To develop insights in business that lead to actual market advantage with consumers, looking at gender differences is essential. A common concern for businesses is that that the budget could not possibly stretch wide enough across the two gender markets – different products, different distribution, communications. Would this mean they are diluting their funds by 50%? The short answer is no. Creating deeper relationships with women results in less manufacturing and marketing waste and much greater ROI.
Femvertising usually looks like this: find an issue that women feel passionate about (like their desire to be treated equally) attach your brand to their cause, and promote the message to the world with a #hashtag. But this is grossly inadequate. Businesses need to demonstrate authenticity, focus, and a deep commitment to meeting the needs of women.
Women are reaching a critical mass of influence and purchase power. Undo these myths in your business, and see your business flourish with new opportunity.
Gender-intelligence expert Bec Brideson is driving exponential growth and innovation for business and brands with an overlooked market opportunity estimated to be worth $28T. Bec’s first book: BLIND SPOTS: How to uncover and attract the fastest emerging economy outlays her game-changing methodology for leveraging gender into commercial gain. To buy Bec’s book or find out how she can help you turn a social issue into a profitable outcome, visit her at becbrideson.com
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